Clinicopathological features of He Shou Wu-induced liver injury: This ancient anti-aging therapy is not liver-friendly

Yan Wang, Lan Wang, Romil Saxena, Aileen Wee, Ruiyuan Yang, Qiuju Tian, Jiping Zhang, Xinyan Zhao, Jidong Jia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Polygonum Multiflorum Thumb (PMT), an ancient anti-aging Chinese herb known traditionally as He Shou Wu, has side effects of liver toxicity. To determine the main clinical and pathological characteristics of liver toxicity induced by PMT and the clinical course after its cessation. Methods: Data of patients, diagnosed as drug-induced liver injury and hospitalised in Beijing Friendship Hospital from August 2005 to August 2017, were retrospectively reviewed. Clinical, pathological data and outcome after cessation of He Shou Wu were obtained and analysed. Kruskal-Wallis and Chi-square (χ 2 ) tests were performed. Results: Twenty-nine patients with He Shou Wu-induced liver injury were enrolled. The median age was 53 years (range 15-74) and 75.9% (22/29) were women. The most common symptom was jaundice (79.3%, 23/29). Of nine patients with liver biopsies, six showed acute cholestatic hepatitis, two acute, and one chronic hepatocellular injury pattern. The latency, liver chemistries and outcomes were comparable between pure He Shou Wu (5 patients) and its compounds (24 patients). Twenty-five of 29 patients (86.2%) had normal serum alanine aminotransferase levels after 45 days (range: 10-138 days) and total bilirubin of 46 days (range: 0-551 days). One patient was rechallenged with He Shou Wu and two developed autoimmune features. One patient died of liver failure and three had chronic persistent liver injury. Conclusions: The main clinicopathological injury pattern of He Shou Wu-induced liver injury is moderate to severe hepatitis with or without cholestasis. Most patients recover completely; however, chronic disease and death do occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalLiver International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • He Shou Wu
  • Polygonum Multiflorum Thumb
  • clinical course
  • drug-induced liver injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology

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